I was super happy to be in Vienna after spending nine days in Salzburg. Don’t get me wrong — Salzburg is a lovely city, but you can hardly even call it a city; the population is about 150,000 and nightlife is all but nonexistent. Vienna, with its 1.8 million residents and its constant activity, was like a breath of fresh air.
I stayed at Hostel Ruthensteiner, which gets two big thumbs up from me. It’s a really nice, clean, social hostel, perfect for solo travellers and located less than a 5-minute walk from Westbahnhof train station. It has a bar and lots of common space, including an outdoor garden area, so it’s a good spot for chilling and meeting new people.
I would say the number one thing that sets Vienna apart from other cities is the magnificence of its buildings, especially its several palaces. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a city with as many palaces as Vienna. It seems like there’s one on just about every street corner, and they’re all fabulously grand.
The first thing I did after checking into my hostel was to go and see the city’s most famous palace, Schönbrunn. I was amazed by the grandeur of this building, its huge courtyard, and its lovely park and grounds. It’s definitely one of the most impressive palaces I’ve seen.
Make sure you walk through the garden and all the way up the hill opposite the palace, where the gloriette stands. (A gloriette is basically just a building erected on a hill for the purpose of affording a view of the surroundings.) I was too cheap to pay for a ticket to go up to the top of the gloriette, but the view was pretty great even from the base. I can only imagine how impressive it must have been from the top.
Perhaps equally as impressive as Schönbrunn Palace is Belvedere Palace, which was originally built as a summer residence for Prince Eugene of Savoy and now houses the Belvedere Museum.
And if you still haven’t had your fill of palaces, why not check out the opulent Hofburg Palace too?
But of course, there’s more to Vienna than just palaces. One of the most recognizable landmarks of the city is the magnificent St. Stephen’s Cathedral, located in the very heart of the city at the Stephansplatz metro stop. This church is so big, I couldn’t fit the whole thing in one picture.
If you read my post about Salzburg, you might remember that I met a girl there from California. Well, by some fortunate coincidence, not only did we spend every day together in Salzburg, but we also left Salzburg for Vienna on the very same day! So of course we ended up hanging out quite a bit in Vienna as well. And it just so happened that the company she works for had given her a $250 gift certificate to spend on cool experiences while she was travelling. And guess what? She used part of that gift certificate to take me to a Mozart concert at the Vienna State Opera! (The tickets were €50 each, BTW. Yeah, I owe her big time.) Attending a concert at one of the world’s leading opera houses was an incredible experience. In fact, just being inside this magnificent building was pretty awesome.
In short, Vienna is a fantastic city. It’s classy and sophisticated without being stuck-up. It’s extremely clean and ultra-safe without being boring. My week here went by way too fast, and I’m a little bummed to be leaving today. But on the other hand, I’m totally stoked to be spending a week in Budapest after this. I’ve heard it’s a magical city. Of course, I’ll let you know how it goes!